Monday, August 27, 2007

Supper Club Wines

(picture taken by Paolo Destefanis and featured in Saveur magazine)

We have this thing called the Supper Club (otherwise referred to by my dear friend Juli as the Super Club) where I work that we do every four weeks or so. Since our kitchen is likely the smallest and most inadequately equipped (yet highly loved) kitchen in the restaurant industry, four weeks is about how often we want to cook four courses for sixty people. But we love our Supper Club. We love the opportunity to cook for our beloved customers, which more often than not, happen to be our friends (through work, sure) or family.
My co-cook came up with the fantastic idea that these dinner should be called our "Passport Series," and that every time we have a Supper Club, we could visit a different regional cuisine. Last month was Spain. This month's is Italy.
Each Supper Club menu items comes with wine pairing suggestions from the same region or country. We put our heads together at the wine bar and discuss what we think would pair the miraculously with what. It is my hardship that I have to test-cook the four courses and drink the wines we have spouted might pair well with each dish to insure that our recommended wines for the courses are in fact good matches. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the customer.
I cooked our third course at home recently as a test run. The meat was Niman Ranch Pork Loin (swooooonnnn), cooked Sicilian style, rubbed with salt and cracked peppercorns and covered with finely chopped onions. It was served with creamy polenta, braised fennel, and wild mushrooms. We happened to serve a fruity Nebbiolo (the grape of Piedmont, famous for Barolo wines) on the wine bar the week prior that was ready to be tested. It was also free of charge because there was only a glass left and it was the end of the week. There also happened to be about 1/2 a bottle of Benati Rossodiverzella a Nerello –indigenous Sicilian varietal- wine left too. And I had set aside a Ladoix Burgundy for cellaring months prior. I took the two wine bar wines home for testing, and muttered "screw cellaring" to myself as I popped the cork on the Burgundy. Note to parents: did not finish all wine that night.

Notes from meal:
I threw some cherry heirloom tomatoes in with the pork last minute that looked like they would not last another night. These uber-sweet tomatoes and pork paired great with the Burgundy (Pinot Noir). It was aged Burgundy from 2001 and soft and ripe just like the tomatoes. The Nebbiolo also went well with the tomatoes- because, well, they just do. Most Italian wines go well with tomato dishes. They make them that way.
But hands down, the best pairing was the wine from Sicily with the pork dish. Unsurprising perhaps, because the best pairings are most often the wines and foods created in the same region, but amazing just the same. The wine was rustic, tawny and spicy, but just chocolaty and fruity enough to complement the sweet, sweet pork.
If you'd like to try this extremely easy and succulent pork dish, link to:

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

UC Berkeley Food and Wine Archives

(left, Chuck Williams, right, Miiljenko Grgich)

Before my next wine and food pairing post comes to term, I wanted to direct your attention, dear readers, to a special website that I think that all of you will appreciate.
While at UC Berkeley I had the opportunity to work with the UC Berkeley Food and Wine Archives in the Regional Oral History Office. This is a department, funded partially by the university but primarily through philanthropic donors such as Chuck Williams of Williams and Sonoma, that records and transcribes interviews with movers and shakers in the Bay Area food and wine industries.
These movers and shakers, such as Paul Bertoli of Fra' Mani salumi and Olivetto, are interviewed, and thier responses are recorded and transcribed. Later, the interviews are downloaded to the program's website. The interviews tend to be very telling of the person's nature because they are only lightly edited, unlike with journalistic interviews, when the interviewees voice shines only when the journalist allows it. Granted, the lack of editing associated with oral history makes a very long interview. That is, its a loooooonnngg read. Interviewees ask about the person's background, childhood, road to wine or food, and much more.
However, while they're long, these oral histories are detailed, telling, and amazingly interesting. Depending on whose interviews you select to read, you might even get a dirty joke or two out of the journey.
Some wine interviewees include: Ernest Gallo, Miljenko Grgich of Grgich Hills, and Justin Meyer of Silver Oak. Most of the wine interviews include insight on the 1973 Paris Tasting too. Just some of the people interviewed in the food realm include: Mary Risley of Tante Marie Cooking School, Cecilia Chiang of Mandarin, Chuck Williams, and food writer Doris Muscatine. And, most covienently, all of the aforementioned interviews can be downloaded online at either of these two web addresses:

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

San Lucas Guacamole, Puerto Vallarta

P.S. Order the guacamole. It comes with more fried tortillas.

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